Author Archives: afinnega

Christmas Crackers at Christmas Eve Dinner

Since I can remember, it has been a tradition at my household to pop open Christmas Crackers at my Christmas eve dinner. My family and friends sit around a round table and pop open the cardboard crackers that are filled with a toy, a joke, and a paper crown. Shortly after opening the crackers we all place the crowns on our head and tell the jokes in a circle.

The origin of this tradition comes from my Grandmothers family in Liverpool, England. My mother, the informant, states that it was a very popular tradition in Liverpool to open Christmas Crackers on Christmas eve as a symbol of the first gift of Christmas. It was then followed by a large dinner with many family and friends. The tradition was then passed onto my mother who passed it down to my family for a tradition that we practice every year.

Analysis: My analysis on this certain Folk Holiday Tradition is that a very English tradition was passed down in a familial fashion and thus, made its way to the United States. This tradition is very rooted in my family now and has not changed since the time when my grandmother initially did it.

Not Stepping on the Chalk-Baseball

Information on the Informant: The informant, Awari Muoneke,  is one of my best friends who is currently a college baseball player (he plays outfield) at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He has played baseball his entire life and has always been one of the best players on the field when he played. He grew up in Rolling Hills Estates, California and attended Loyola High school. He is of Nigerian descent and is about as big of a baseball fan as you can possibly be. He is currently 19 years old and turns 20 in November of 2016.

Me: “So what exactly is your superstition with baseball?”

Informant: “I never step on the chalk lines that go through the base paths on a baseball field. Every time I run out to go to the outfield I jump over the chalk lines because I feel like it will jinx my performance on the field.”

Me: “Is there any reason exactly why you do this?”

Informant: “Well, when I was about 11 years old  in little league, we were in the playoffs for my All-Star team. It was the later part of the game and we were up by two runs. I had never thought about the whole stepping on the chalk thing before but for some reason when I ran out to the outfield in the last inning I noticed because I stepped on the chalk and it got all over my cleats. I went in to the outfield and within 20 minutes we gave up three runs and lost the game. Being an 11 year old kid, I got unnecessarily upset and cried because I was so devastated about the game. From that point on I really just made it my mission to never step on the chalk. I’ve lost many games without stepping on the chalk but for some reason I just feel like if I jump over it, something better will happen.”

Me: “Do you have any current or former teammates who did this?”

Informant:”Actually, yeah. I’ve seen teammates do this but I’m not really sure if its for the same reason or something different.”

Analysis: Unlike some other superstitions in sports, this one started for the informant because of a personal reason. It was interesting to find out that he has teammates who also did the same thing but not necessarily for the same reason. To this day, in college baseball, he still jumps over the chalk just as a personal habit. Although the act started at a superstition for good luck, it could be possible that he just does it as of habit now because it started 8 years ago.

The Game

Informant Bio: The informant of this particular piece of Folklore is one of my best friends from home Jack Dunn. He is currently a freshman at USC as well and is majoring in business. He grew up in pasadena, california and played lacrosse in high school. In addition to lacrosse Jack also played lots of video games as a hobby. Additionally, he was very involved in school retreats during high school which corresponds with the fact that he told me this type of folklore. Many times on retreat type events with a lot of people, lots of quirky games are played.

Me: “So what exactly is ‘The Game’?”

Informant:”‘The Game’ is definitely the most basic, simple, and stupid game you will ever here or play. Essentially, all it is is that if you the phrase ‘The Game,’ you lose the game. Also, if you even think about The Game then you lose the game. It’s really stupid but it’s a game a lot of my friends have played.”

Me: “When was the first time you heard about ‘The Game’?”

Informant: “When I was in middle school, I went to a summer camp in Wrightwood and some kid at the camp introduced the game to me. He kept saying the phrase ‘The Game’ throughout the trip so I lost all the time.”

Me: “Is there any real purpose to the game or is it just how it sounds on the surface?”

Informant: “It really is the most basic game ever. Technically you can never win unless you just aren’t thinking about the phrase that makes you lose.”

Analysis: This game reminds me of many qwirky games that I learned about when I was a child. Also, it does not appear that this particular game has any specific cultural roots but rather it was a game that someone may have created just for humor. The informant was unaware of the original roots of the story so it was difficult to analyze exactly where it was created. Additionally, the informant was a guy who participated in lots of camps/retreats so this particular game must have been supplemented with additional games played at camps or retreats.

Fraternity Folk Speech-Biz

Info on the Informant: The informant, Jack McGeagh, is one of my best friends and is a fellow classmate who is in the same fraternity as I am. Both he and I pledged in the Fall of 2015 and were exposed to many new traditions and rituals. Jack is from the Pacific Palisades on the coast of Los Angeles. He is 19 years old and studies psychology as his major. He is currently a Freshman at USC.

Me: “Can you give an overview of the origin of biz and the significance it has on our fraternity?”

Jack: “As a pledge in the fall of 2015, our pledge class was told by our peers in the house that were not allowed to say the number ‘5.’ We were instead told that we had to say the word ‘biz’ as a replacement of ‘5’.” The exact origin of this is that when playing the game beer die, a popular college drinking game, a player throws a die on a table and if it rolls on ‘5,’ the person who threw the die has to drink his whole cup. Although we were not 21 and didn’t participate in the games, we were still held to a standard of always saying ‘biz’ instead of’ ‘5.” Some people in the house saw it as a thing you do just as a pledge while others in the house maintained the tradition of saying ‘biz’ all the way up until they were seniors. The actual phrase ‘biz’ comes from an old active in the house who graduated and made up the term as an alternative to say 5. I can’t actually remember the reason why he chose biz but there was more meaning behind it. That’s essentially how it all came to be and how it became so engrained in everyone in our fraternities’ heads.

Analysis: The action of saying biz is one of the arbitrary, pointless fraternity traditions that is mostly created for humor and to give the pledges another hiccup on their way to becoming an active of the house. Although it does not have objective meaning, it is a funny thing to bring up in a conversation to those in the fraternity.

The Vanderlip Mansion-Narcissa

The other part to the Vanderlip Mansion, the story of a wife names Narcissi, follows a similar, gory narrative as the other legend about Mr. Vanderlip and his daughter. Located in Palos Verdes, California, a coastal city in Los Angeles county, the Vanderlip Mansion is the first home built in the early years of Palos Verdes. To the day it is said to be haunted by Narcissa, a wife who supposedly killed and chopped up her family along with her dogs and then buried them in the walls of the mansion. Shortly after the murders, Narcissa hung herself in the residence and died. The Mansion is said to be haunted by glowing ghost dogs along with the wife.


Info of Informant: My father, the informant, told me of the Vanderlip Mansion when I was a young kid and then refreshed my memory about it when I collected this folklore legend. He grew up in palos verdes and has lived their his entire life so he is well-knowledged about the legend. He lived fairly close to the mansion and told about how his friends used to talk about it when he was younger.